OPINION: 'I worked hard to become a head chef in Sweden. Now I'm being deported unfairly'

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OPINION: 'I worked hard to become a head chef in Sweden. Now I'm being deported unfairly'

Raja Makendran has just started to forge a career as a head chef in Sweden. Now, he is due to be deported because of a technicality, the Indian argues in an opinion piece.


My name is Raja Makendran, and I hail from Salem, a city in the southern part of India. As a young biotechnologist with an interest in biomolecules and their effect on nutrition, I decided to pursue my higher studies in one of the best technological institutes in the world. This led me to get admitted to the MSc course at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

I moved to Sweden during 2010 in August to start my academic studies at the university. What attracted me most was the practical approach towards the study courses and opportunity to select and study various specializations within the life sciences field.

But being in a new country and new place proved to be quite a challenge especially during the harsh winters of Sweden. Along with drop in the mercury levels, the most important challenge that I faced was the really high cost of living here in Sweden, when compared to my homeland.

In order to support myself I started as a part time dishwasher. Owing to my diligence I was offered a full time role. I decided, though reluctantly, to accept the offer as the money could help support me until I found a relevant job in the field of my interest. Little did I know, that this small decision would eventually prove to be a crucial one and actually help me discover my real passion.

The offer was at a restaurant called Berså owned by Batool Restaurang AB, and looking at my progress, the employer requested me to work in their other famous Jacobs Cafe on Haga Nygata as a kitchen assistant. This was the period in which my interest towards the art of cooking started to grow tremendously. I spent a lot of time discussing with the Chefs at the restaurant regarding various cuisines and even tried a few of them in my own kitchen.

This enthusiasm had caught the eye of my employer and eventually my skills and interest towards cooking got its due recognition. He decided to provide me with an opportunity to handle a Swedish kitchen called Hemma Hos, also located on the famous Haga street.

All I knew at this point in time was that I was working for the same employer  –  different companies within the same holding company. Batool Restaurang AB, Jacobs Cafe, Hemma Hos…

For someone bitten by this bug of cooking, the offer proved irresistible. Having accepted the offer I started to explore various Swedish cuisines. I decided to develop a niche for myself and be recognized within the industry for my unique style that blended my Asian sensibilities with contemporary Swedish cuisine.

Three years of experience at difference cafes and restaurants owned by my employer helped me hone my skills and most importantly gain the goodwill of my customers and employees. The mere sight of looking at a satisfied customer kept on motivating me to learn new culinary art forms.

Examples of Makendran's food. Photo: Raja Makendran

That is when I decided to get into the big league of Swedish Restaurants. Le Pub Öl and Vinbar located near the well-known Järntorget square decided to interview me, and much to their delight they found my infectious passion towards food as a perfect fit to their culture. I got selected for the position as a chef at the new job.

Call it serendipity or a twist of fate, but within just a month, the head chef of the place quit and as a result, I was provided the big responsibility of the position of head chef. It was a major shot in the arm for a young and aspiring chef. I enjoyed having multiple responsibilities and loved the responsibility of cooking but also managing several other aspects of the restaurants. I decided that this profession was my life’s calling and as a result, I applied for a residence permit to pursue this passion.

To my shock and as a major blow to my aspirations, I have now received a decision from (Swedish migration agency) Migrationsverket to be deported out of the country…

The reason: I have official contract papers for one company (Batool Restaurang AB) but received a salary from different companies like Jacobs Cafe, Hemma Hos, etc (albeit belonging the same group of companies).

My dreams of making it big in the Swedish Restaurant space now looks bleak and almost out of reach. I am absolutely shocked about this decision and request the migration board to consider my case and not cut short my career which had just taken off.

Oh Migrationsverket! What have you done?

This is an opinion piece written by Raja Makendran. The Local contacted Migrationsverket for comment. 


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